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Messing About in Boats

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

There is nothing-absolutely nothing- half so much worth doing
As simply messing about in boats.

Ratty to Mole,
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

This fall, I've resolved to get out in my boat, Lois, as much as I can. To float around on quiet waters. To move silently through water weeds, companion of heron, duck and kingfisher.

But first I had to get our two canoes registered. A man in khaki and aviator glasses and a mustache and too many badges busted Shila and me at Wolf Run, one of my favorite retreats, for not having numbers on the bow of our two one-man canoes. I played dumb that time, but knew I couldn't play dumb twice. There was a hundred-dollar fine awaiting the next time he busted me. And, as an aside, he'd already busted one of my friends in the same (borrowed) boat twice on the same lake...clearly it was time to get legal. I mean, you can't have people paddling around in UNREGISTERED one-man canoes, can you? Lawlessness would prevail; we might load the bulkheads with Lord knows what and sneak in close to some strategic building and...oh, who knows. People in one-man canoes are not to be trusted. I'm told this is all new since 9/11, just another little noisome fillip to be coped with, along with taking your shoes off in the airport and having someone in a uniform throw your bug juice and Swiss Army knife away.
orange sulfur interlude in the fire and brimstone...seen from the canoe

In Ohio, you've got to get even hand-made one-man canoes registered; you have to put three-inch high white letters and a registration sticker on both sides of the bow; you have to pay $10 a year to operate them. But there's more. You have to drive them, yes, load the boats on the car and take them to the nearest watercraft office (Cambridge, OH, an hour north). At least the drive was pretty.

There, you have to fill out an affadavit of ownership because of course if you had a bill of sale you've thoroughly lost it and hand that back to the cute Watercraft Officer who's been inspecting your boats and then get a serial number assigned and from there you get a title and you have to go find a notary to notarize it (the first guy at the pawn shop was out on Mondays, but a used car dealer in Cambridge obliged) and then you get your OH number assigned back to the Watercraft Office and then you go to Wal-Mart and buy sticky boat numbers in a pack of 154 which really ought to be enough to put four OH numbers on two boats and try valiantly to follow the detailed instructions on how to apply them reading left to right with the registration sticker EXACTLY six inches from the first number, and you get them crooked anyway and sure enough daggone it you run out of O's and H's and have to cut the tails off the Q's and make H's out of E's, and by then you're cussing a blue streak and about five hours later counting two hours in the car you are all legal and ready to rock on the water.

And you can get
anything you want
at Alice's Restaurant.

So. Having gone through all that on a fine September day, culminating in a fabulous Legal Paddle at Salt Fork State Park, I decided that I had better take my newly legitimate canoe out as much as possible this fall. How many of us have canoes in the garage or out back of the house, malingering, languishing...unused? It's a crime, with only ourselves to blame. I'm convinced that it's all because we have to tie them atop the car, a stressful, stupid and inefficient way to carry a boat. When I discovered that BOTH my canoes would fit in the back of my Explorer with only a couple of feet sticking out the back I was just about the happiest girl in the whole USA for that golden moment. It takes me about eight minutes (yes, I've timed it) to throw them in the car, grab the PFD's, paddles and seats, tie the back hatch down and git goin'. The whole point being to be able to go canoeing on the spur of the moment (ever the best part of the moment for creative souls).

I take my good camera. Yes, someday I may tip over, but as badly as I swim, the camera will be the least of my worries. I wear a PFD all the time, and I take the good camera, because that's what it's for.

Boats in the harbor are safe
But that's not what boats are made for.


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